Fun Walk, Carnival for a Cure planned

SALEM – Area residents and businesses can support research for curing retinal blindness and have fun at the same time during the Scrabble Fun Walk and Carnival for a Cure on Sept. 21 at Waterworth Memorial Park.

Participants can check in beginning at 12:30 p.m., with the more than 1-mile walk set to start at 2 p.m. The cost per participant is $10. Participants can pre-register online or secure a registration form online at under events and the Scrabble Fun Walk. To register and secure a T-shirt, the cost is $15. For the first 100 registered, pre-registration bags filled with donated items will be given.

Sponsorships for the event will be accepted until Sept. 1, with a form available on the website. To date, there are about $7,000 worth of sponsorships including money and in-kind donations toward the walk and carnival.

The carnival from 1 to 5 p.m. will feature a unique variety of games, activities, demonstrations, food and a Chinese auction. A feature of the carnival will be a mob ribbon dance choreographed by Infinity Dance. People can practice by visiting the Eyes for Olivia website prior to the event and purchase ribbons the day of the event.

Last year Eyes for Olivia and the Canfield Lions Club hosted the first Scrabble event as a run and bike ride. This year organizers focused on a fun walk along the nature trail, still keeping Scrabble as the theme. Participants gather Scrabble tiles along the way and see what they can spell at the end to earn points to win prizes.

The family-focused event benefits the Curing Retinal Blindness Foundation and helps 8-year-old Olivia Hoffman of Salem and her family in their quest to raise funds towards several ongoing research projects through the foundation.

Olivia, her parents Kim and Mike and her siblings Sarah and Sean have a vested interest in the success of any research – she was diagnosed in 2009 with a rare form of retinal dystrophy called Lebers Congenital Amaurosis.

That means the Reilly Elementary School third grader who turns 9 years old later this week will slowly lose her vision until it is gone, very likely by early adulthood.

She’s legally blind in her left eye and has depth perception issues in both eyes and poor night vision.

“I think we’re very fortunate with Olivia’s vision that it has remained fairly stable,” Kim said, noting she has shown some improvement in her right eye.

She admits that even though she tries to stay positive about the situation, there is a part of her wondering when it is going to hit.

Once they got their bearings after Olivia’s diagnosis, she and Mike discovered the Curing Retinal Blindness Foundation which is made up of families with children having the same rare disease. The families host fundraisers to help fund research projects and currently have money going to five different projects. Mike said they were able to talk with the researchers at Jackson Laboratories in Maine this summer while on vacation.

Last year, the Hoffmans were able to raise $20,000 towards the research through fundraisers like the Scrabble walk and Quarter Auction and donations. The Quarter Auction is held in the spring. Mike said they would like to see the Scrabble walk grow and get more businesses and community members involved.

During the recent Grand Parade, they passed out numbered frisbees and they are planning to distribute more frisbees during the Family Fun Day on Sept. 13 in downtown Salem. People who have a frisbee can come to the Scrabble walk and Carnival for a Cure for a chance to receive a gift card, but they have to check in at the main tent. Only the numbers for frisbee holders who show up will be eligible for prizes. During Family Fun Day, they will have some of the carnival games for people to try out.

Prizes for the tops scorers in the Scrabble Fun Walk include: four tickets for the Dec. 12 Disney on Ice show at the Covelli Center; a 2015 family season pass for the Akron Zoo; $125 gift card for Zip City in Akron; a Youngstown State University athletic package which includes four tickets for a football game, four tickets for a basketball game and a YSU football signed by the team; four tickets to Easy Street Production’s Christmas presentation of Miracle on 34th Street in December; and four passes for miniature golf at SportsWorld in Boardman.

The carnival will include some new games this year, with titles such as Electronic Zapped game, Rat Race, Rubber Chicken Chucking, Velcro Tic Tac Toe, Mousetrap, Football Toss possibly manned by members of the YSU football team; Hook and Ring Game, Beat the Dealer, Roll the Dice, Feed the Elephant and Nose Pick Game. Tickets will be required for the games where participants earn points, then turn them in for prizes at the prize tent.

They will also have train rides by KCB Express, Putt Putt by the Canfield Lions Club, a children’s story time skit, the Humane Society of Columbiana County with adoptable animals, pumpkin painting with pumpkins from Rea’s Farm Market, face painting by First Friends girl scout troop 80047, a vision acuity demo by Salem Eye Care Center, Sam the Safety Squirrel from the Salem Area Safety Council of the Salem Area Chamber of Commerce passing out coloring/sticker books, the Salem Fire Department with a truck and the spray house, the Canfield Fire Department with the fire safety house and the Salem Police Department with a cruiser. A Chinese Auction will feature a variety of baskets full of donated items.

Students from the Canfield Leos (a branch of the Lions Club) and the Salem High School Key Club (a branch of the Kiwanis) will help with the event, along with adult volunteers.